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Finding Missing Heirs in Probate Cases

In general, when someone passes away, the probate process is cut and dried. The probate court will appoint a personal representative to administer the estate, who will then pay off the estate’s debts and taxes, distributing the remaining assets to all beneficiaries. However, it doesn’t always work out that smoothly.


There may be a situation where one of the heirs cannot be located, whether they are missing or simply out of touch with the family due to a falling out, or perhaps unknown to family members. Whatever the reason for not being able to contact the heir, the probate court still must give those missing heirs full consideration. Deadlines vary by state, but the basic procedures for locating an heir are standard across the country.

Searching for a Missing Heir

When an heir cannot be located, the personal representative is expected to try to find him or her. There are many ways this can be done, such as by:

  • Conducting an online search via social media accounts.
  • Conducting a Google search.
  • Hiring a private investigator.
  • Contacting an “heir finder.”
  • Requesting the Social Security Administration send a letter from an attorney to the heir’s last known address.

Sometimes a missing heir still cannot be found. In that case, the inheritance will be placed in a trust for a certain timeline according to state law. When that deadline passes and no heir comes forward, the inheritance is given to the heir’s next of kin. If you are the estate’s administrator and have exhausted all resources trying to locate those listed in the decedent's will or trust, your next step is to enlist the help of a lawyer. 

Contact Sayer, Regan & Thayer LLP

Schedule your free case evaluation with our experienced probate lawyers today if you have a missing heir situation. Contact us toll free at 866-378-5836 or 401-324-9915. Our probate lawyers are skilled in all aspects of probate, trust and estate administration. In fact, we can: 

  • Represent executors and heirs in probate court
  • Represent trustees and beneficiaries in trust administration
  • Collect, value, sell and distribute assets and continuing businesses
  • Settle creditors' claims
  • Address estate litigation and disputes


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